Tweed/New Haven Airport Is Not A Happy Place

Airlines are desperately trying to cut costs to survive, not expand to small cities like New Haven.

Tweed New Haven Airport USAir Express takeoffI opened the editorial page of Friday’s New Haven Register and was unhappy to read: “Tweed’s prospects fade for new airline.”

In this case, Tweed is Tweed/New Haven Airport. It’s big enough for 737s and DC9s, but the only service nowadays are puddle jumpers to Philly and back.

There was a time when a bunch of airlines flew to New Haven. In the last decade we’ve had non-stop service to Chicago, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh (though not at the same time). Each time one of them pulled out, the word from within was, the service was doing fine, but the airline wanted to be elsewhere.

It is by far the most convenient airport I’ve ever flown from. The terminal is small and steps from the parking lot. There is a jetway, but it hasn’t been used for scheduled service in years and I’d be surprised if it’s full functional.

My sadness comes from the closing paragraph:

The reality for Tweed is that even with the necessary safety and runway improvements, its ability to attract new air service is severely hampered by the state of the airline industry. Airlines are desperately trying to cut costs to survive, not expand to small cities like New Haven.

I’m sad because it’s true.

The level of airline service says something about a community. Not having it says something too. For the foreseeable future, Tweed has no future.

Cyber Monday – The Myth

I watched and listened to all sorts of stories about Cyber Monday yesterday, and it struck me… I should know about this. I’m pretty ‘cyber’.

I was drawing a blank.

How could there be something Internet oriented, something major, and I didn’t have a clue? I pride myself on wasting too many hours tapping on this keyboard to miss something so obvious.

The short answer is, Cyber Monday doesn’t exist… or didn’t exist… or… well, it’s marketing at work. It was one of those things too juicy for newsrooms to discard.

Just one problem: It’s not true, at least for many online retailers. Contrary to what the recent blitz of media coverage implies, Cyber Monday isn’t nearly the biggest online shopping or spending day of the year. It ranks only as the 12th-biggest day historically, according to market researcher comScore Networks. It’s not even the first big day of the season.

For most online retailers, the bigger spending day of the season to date was way back on Nov. 22, three days before Black Friday. What’s more, most e-tailers say the season’s top spending day comes much later, between around Dec. 5 and Dec. 15.

All the credit here goes to Business Week, where they were also skeptical, but actually followed through!

More than wondering about Cyber Monday, I think the real concentration should go to understanding how the Internet is changing brick and mortar retail. Consumers have never had as much access to price information. It’s gotta be making stores go nuts.

Physical retailers need to be careful. Let’s use the airline industry as the example of what not to do.

By the time the legacy carriers caught on to what the discounters were doing, they were both offering exactly the same product – except the discounters were cheaper.

Brick and mortar retailers need to find a way to distinguish themselves from on-line stores other than by price. Immediacy is certainly one way. There are probably others.

Could Internet retailing revive service in ‘real’ stores? Wow, what a concept. And, it’s exactly what the airlines didn’t do.

The End Of An Era At Southwest

Helaine and I are big supporters of Southwest Airlines’ frequent flier program, “Rapid Rewards.”

First, we like Southwest. The employees usually seem friendly and helpful The flight crews act as if they enjoy their job. This is uncommon in the airline industry.

Second, it is much easier to get a ticket. Most airlines make you accrue 25,000 ‘miles’… sometimes more in peak season. Southwest charges 18,500 for a free ticket.

Even more important, if there’s a seat on a plane, your voucher for a free flight is good! There are no restrictions other than a few dates (very few).

Now this is changing and I’m not happy.

No Blackout Dates and Seat Restrictions on Award Travel

Beginning February 10, 2006, all Awards issued will have no systemwide blackout dates and will be subject to seat restrictions. Restricting the number of seats for Awards helps us maintain our low-fare leadership and keeps the program lucrative for you.

Please plan ahead when making your flight reservations as certain holiday or peak travel periods will be in high demand and your desired flight may not be available for Award travel.

Here are a few more things you should know

* Awards issued before February 10, 2006 will have no seat restrictions, but are subject to published blackout dates.

* Awards issued on or after February 10, 2006 will have seat restrictions, but no systemwide blackout dates. Members need to be flexible when choosing times and dates to their destinations as certain holiday or peak travel periods will be in high demand and that makes booking Award travel difficult.

* Last-minute Award usage will still be allowed based on seat availability.

* Awards are still valid for 12 months.

* Receiving a Companion Pass still only requires 100 credits within in 12 months.

* Companion travel will still have no seat restrictions or blackout dates

When I read words like, “keeps the program lucrative for you,” I am tempted to count my fingers. This is not being done for me. This is not my choice of what would be.

Southwest didn’t ask – and I assume the reason is they already knew how I, and others, feel.

Here’s the most distasteful part of all of this. When an airline restricts capacity, no one is ever told how restrictive it is. There is no transparency. So, when Southwest says, “no systemwide blackout dates,” the words might be true, but with an incredibly large fudge factor added.

A Good Cell Choice?

Contracting for cellular service was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made. There are no really good choices, just a series of compromises. Everyone is offering something different. It’s nearly impossible to comparison shop. Each company has different coverage. None of the companies make full, easily understood disclosures of their coverage or limitations.

In many ways I’m reminded of the airline industry. They’ve made life so miserable for customers that, by and large, airlines are reviled. Meanwhile, the major carriers have made so many cuts that their one unique selling point against the low cost carriers – full service – no longer exists.

Back to the phones (airlines are too easy a target).

This morning, right under the masthead, The New York Times reported Vodaphone as the likely purchaser of AT&T Wireless. Bzzzzzzzzz – wrong. The ink had hardly dried on page one by the time it was announced that Cingular was buying AT&T Wireless.

Call me selfish, but this is wonderful news for me. My only real (current) complaint about Cingular is their coverage at home. AT&T, on the other hand, has a compatible tower within spitting distance of my house. So, I can only hope that the two networks are quickly combined and the green light on my phone starts blinking.

This is too easy. I’m missing something, I just know it.